Although set in a small American university town, The Girl in Kellers Way is a debut from Australian writer Megan Goldin. The obligatory “Girl” in the title tells us we’re in domestic noir territory, as does the alternating female viewpoint narrators, dead body found in the first few pages, and shaky marriage of Julie, one of the protagonists.
Julie West is running in the forest near her home one morning when a motorist nearly runs her down. Upon recognising her, the driver warns her to run, that she’s not safe. But when she goes for help to her husband, university psychology professor, Matthew West, it appears perhaps the incident never occurred in the first place. Julie has been on antidepressant medication for a while, her moods are up and down, her memories are unreliable and she’s jealous of all women in Matt’s life, including his dead first wife, Laura.
When a cold-case body is found in Kellers Way not long afterwards, Detective Mel Carter must first identify the victim. Thawing ground at winter’s close has dislodged the badly decomposed body that forensics indicate has been buried for about six years. A conspiracy of silence surrounds the mysterious body—anyone who might know who it was and why she was murdered, has reason to lie. The only real clue to the woman’s identity might lie with Julie and the motorist who, perhaps, tried to murder her.
This dark, gripping novel hits all the right domestic noir notes set by its forerunners, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. But unfortunately, like The Girl on the Train, the end is rather predictable. This doesn’t prevent it from being a heck of a ride to get there, though, and this really is a riveting read. A main reason for this is the work Goldin has incorporated on human memory. Manipulation of memory, implantation, removal and false memory theory all provide a fresh slant for this best-selling genre and make The Girl in Kellers Way stand out.
Some of the more predictable aspects of the book are the inclusion of a marriage on the brink of dissolution, untrustworthy husbands and secrets galore. The detective character is also a bit of a plot device to enable the police investigation side of things to unfold and attempts to root Mel Carter in domestic noir through provision of teenage sons seem somewhat contrived and unnecessary to the plot. There was some clumsiness in the execution, and more than a few typos in the print, but, overall, while this wasn’t perfect or as polished as some others in the genre, it was just as gripping, entertaining and quite fascinating. Highly recommended to those who love a good crime novel with a side serving of domestic drudgery, adultery, and secrets, secrets, secrets!
Reviewed by Stacey Carvosso
Rating out of 10: 8
Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: May 2017
RRP: $32.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook